Posted by: glue | October 6, 2008

Descent into Spectacle

Becoming image is another turn on the spiral of Western metaphysics:  spirit becoming body; subject entering language; self avatar.  Avatar must function within a society of the spectacle.  “The spectacle is not a collection of images but a social relation among people mediated by images” (Guy Debord).  Celebrity/Stars pioneered this mode of appearing, iconic persons, such as Liz Taylor.  Taylor was quoted in an interview, disclaiming her public image, which she considered as similar to a dress.  “The Elizabeth Taylor who’s famous, the one on film, really  has no depth or meaning to me.  She’s a totally superficial working thing, a commodity.  I really  don’t know what the ingredients of the image are exactly — just that it makes money” (cited in Cecile Whiting, A Taste for Pop).  Andy Warhol’s Pop rendering defined the relevant attributes of the “brand face”: “Taylor’s red lipstick extends prminently beyond the outline of her lips, and her blue-green eye shadow takes the form of two cut-out shapes haphazardly pasted across her eyelids and eyebrows” (Whiting).

Brand Face

Brand Face

Electrate metaphysics emerges out of literacy, to add a new dimension of being beyond the oral and literate ontologies.  Literate identity is created by means of the written word, using definition to establish essence, constituting free-standing isolated things, including self.  Electrate identity is created by means of the digital image, using commodity logic to produce brand, constituting networked relationships, including avatar.  A commodity is a second-order thing.  A thing is defined by use value (purpose, function).  Some measure of the status of “commodity” in global economy may be found in the fact the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan use the phrase “salable commodity” to refer to spies. Flash reason requires the appropriation of commodity logic on behalf of avatar.

Commodity shifts priority to exchange value, and transforms thing into sign (with photography as the primary mechanism of the proceses).  Commodity logic sublates things into signs by:  1) abstraction, stripping off a few surface attributes; 2) equivalence, opening the abstraction to new semantic associations; 3) reification, displacing the agency of meaning from the subject to the object (see Robert Goldman).  In this process, “Liz” is a source of sign value, available for re-attachment to any data (any product).  Avatar is in the position of product in this equation.  Debord states the assignment for avatar in the spectacle:

“Another side of the deficiency of general historical life is that individual life as yet has no history. The pseudo-events which rush by in spectacular dramatizations have not been lived by those informed of them; moreover they are lost in the inflation of their hurried replacement at every throb of the spectacular machinery. Furthermore, what is really lived has no relation to the official irreversible time of society and is in direct opposition to the pseudo-cyclical rhythm of the consumable by-product of this time. This individual experience of separate daily life remains without language, without concept, without critical access to its own past which has been recorded nowhere. It is not communicated. It is not understood and is forgotten to the profit of the false spectacular memory of the unmemorable” (Society of the Spectacle, #157).

Instruction:  Expression.


  1. Yes, we are forgotten before we can remember who we are – before we formulate the question: who am I? All of everything is a vain struggle to surface on the collective screen of consciousness; a fruitless waste of time, but one we keep atempting to achieve through our interminable stream of ideas, artworks, books and thoughts – we could focus on the hidden life that we rarely glimpse in the recognition of elements of our inner selves – keep up the search, store the momories, there is a kind of truth to be found here. JanW.

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